Wind Cave National Park, Custer State Park, State Game Lodge, Needles Highway, Needles Eye Tunnel, and Black Hills Geological Museum

09/11/17 to 09/12/17 Monday/Tuesday in Custer, SD (visiting Cathy and Jim Brickey)

Some notes from our travel through the North Dakota plains to the South Dakota plains: On our way through North Dakota we noticed fields of sunflowers (for seeds and/or oil), hay, oil derricks, horses, cattle and even some pronghorn “antelope”.

Once we crossed into South Dakota we mostly saw some more pronghorn, cattle and hay fields.


Then we crossed through the Black Hills towards Cathy’s place. The Black Hills are essentially an island of rock and pine trees (which make the area appear dark) in the midst of miles of prairie. It’s also a sacred area for the Sioux. Because it’s so special it draws most SD vacationers, along with Mt. Rushmore National Park (within the Black Hills) which also draws tourists from everywhere.

After a very warm greeting from Cathy and Jim, we settled in for the week.

Tuesday we got off to a good start visiting Wind Cave National Park. It’s a beautiful place in the Black Hills as well. They were enduring a big fire, which made some beautiful scenes.

We continued on into Custer State Park where they are beginning to round up the Bison for the big gathering of the entire herd on Bison Festival Days that is enjoyed by thousands. People watch for miles as the huge herd is driven to pens where they are inoculated from diseases and those considered in excess for the healthy livelihood of the herd are set aside to be sold at auction. Only two National Parks have pure Bison. There may be other such herds, but Jim just knew of these two for sure. Many other Bison have cow DNA included. You can’t tell by looking at them only through DNA testing. Along with the Bison we saw burros (left here by miners, just as at Oatman, AZ).

Then we checked out their State Game Lodge, where Presidents have stayed, including Eisenhower just after he was elected. Calvin Coolidge stayed there often, considering this his summer White House.

Once we finished our fabulous buffet meal there we continued on to the Hole In the Wall, not to be confused with the hideout, then the Needles Highway and its Needle’s Eye Tunnel in both Custer SP and Black Hills Nat’l Forest.

We weren’t finished because Jim drove us all to Hill City at the Black Hills Geological Museum. The owners are paleontologists who discovered “Sue” the largest and most complete T Rex skeleton found to date. Unfortunately, there were misunderstandings with the landowner, the Federal Government and the paleontologists, so lawsuits were brought, culminating with “Sue” now residing at the Chicago Field Museum. This was a very hard blow to Hill City and the Black Hills Geological Museum owners. They also found “Stan” who is the second largest complete T Rex skeleton and he does reside here.

Museum 01

Museum 02

Museum 03

Museum 04

Museum 05

Museum 11

Muscovite, something I’ve always called Mica. It’s so shiny and flat, one of my favorite rocks/minerals.

Whew! That was a big day.


About Patricia Elser

I've always loved the loose, flowing, transparent look of watercolors, of Chinese paintings and their calligraphy, but alas, no watercolor classes were available when I was in school, so that interest remained buried until my children were grown. Even then, I was afraid that I couldn't really paint, so upon my sister's advice, I actually started to take classes. I signed up for every class available, determined to learn no matter how afraid I was. I came upon a teacher, Stan Miller, who inspired me, who opened the door to success in watercolor. I love to look at beautiful images. I want to capture them forever. All my life, photography was how I gathered images of the beauty I saw. Thanks to all that photography, I enjoy composing pictures, especially up close. Watercolors allow me to add more of me in their translation of that beauty. My paintings reflect my love for music and dance, with their rhythm and flow. I am fascinated by the play of light, so it appears in my pictures as drama for they are filled with darks and lights. Maybe it's the challenge, maybe it's the beauty, but now, when a work comes together, it fills my soul.
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